Five misconceptions about millennial clients

Millennials are not a monolithic mass. Much has been said about their attitudes on investing — for example, that they’re risk-averse, fee-conscious and conscientious.

While there is some truth to those generalizations, there are many misconceptions that prevent financial advisors from engaging with millennial clients.

Relentlessly portrayed as entitled and by turns both cheap and reckless with money, millennials might appear to be the worst imaginable clients for financial advisors. Some advisors may write off millennials as not worth signing on because they do not meet their minimum asset level of $100,000.

But discounting those relationships would be short-sighted, says Shannon Lee Simmons, founder of the New School of Finance in Toronto. “If you offer value right now, you may get value for your service when they’re building up their assets,” she says.

No matter what financial circumstances millennials face, Simmons says, it’s up to you to articulate what you can offer.

First, you should get past these five misconceptions about millennial clients:

1. They refuse to pay for services
There’s a perception that members of Generation Y, reared in the age of free information, expect to pay next to nothing for intelligence. “The common thinking is they’re cheap,” Simmons says, “but I think they’re savvy.”

Fear of discussing fees with millennials shouldn’t hold you back. As fee-conscious as some millennials can be, if you are transparent and explain the charges, “they’re happy to pay for good service,” Simmons says.

“They just want to understand what they’re paying for,” she adds.

2. They’re not interested in retirement planning
Retirement may be far from an immediate concern, but millennials do consider it a priority.

“They’re hugely afraid of retirement because they don’t have pensions,” Simmons says. “The idea is it’s going to be self-funded, which adds to their stress and, potentially, their risk-averseness.”

Take the new economy into account when planning, Simmons says, because it will show you understand where they’re coming from.

3. They’re spendthrifts
Millennials may appear to lead extravagant lives — taking trips abroad and purchasing lattes every day. But that “disposable income” often comes from living frugally in other ways, Simmons says.

For example, not having a mortgage affords them the mobility to travel. “A lot of times it’s not all happening on credit,” Simmons says. “In my experience, the people with the biggest lines of credit are homeowners, not the lone millennial who’s going to Costa Rica.”

4. Their risk aversion can be solved with a conservative portfolio
Fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008-09 has shaped many millennials’ anxieties about investing. With limited career prospects awaiting them after graduation, many have become cautious about whether to invest at all, Simmons says, and not just how to invest.

“Millennials are generally more risk-averse, [but] it’s not about an asset mix,” Simmons says. “They don’t just want 70% bonds or 30% equities. It’s whether to invest or not.”

You would need to work with millennial clients through those fears, especially if their employment situation is precarious. One way is to map out their liquidity needs to help them weather that uncertainty.

5. They’d rather get their advice from an app
Meeting face to face isn’t what throws millennials off, says Simmons. Instead, some find the prospect of going to a Bay Street office (or any city’s financial district) daunting.

If millennials seem to prefer robo-advisors, it’s because those automated services don’t require that clients meet an advisor in person.

“What robos have done very well is make a great user experience,” Simmons says. “You don’t have to set up an appointment, [where] it’s a little bit intimidating.”
So, find out how your millennial clients prefer to communicate and go from there. It shows you are making a genuine effort to accommodate them.

This is the third part in a three-part series on working with millennial clients.

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